<i>Other Music from a...</i> Different Kitchen <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Sunday, February 19, 2006

2005 YEAR END WRAP-UP: Albums 

Long threatened, it's finally here. Yeah I know, it's damn near the end of February and I'm CRAZY late on this but at least now I've got y'all attention and I'm not fighting all the other Year-End/Best Of lists that flooded the block from Thanksgiving on last year. Besides f-ck it, the "Pazz N Jop" list just came out so if a February publication date is good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

Actually, there's been a real advanatge to writing this post so late. Before I got my video ipod in November, I was all set to write a post about how I hadn't heard, let alone bought, hardly any albums this year and what's more, wasn't really sweatin' it either. In fact, from about Septmeber of 2004 until now I've bought exactly three CD's: Jill Scott's second album, Nas's The Lost Tapes (both used) and Kanye West's second album (at the Best Buy on 6th Ave where I bumped into my man and super A&R consultant [!] Agent who was indignant at the fact that I wasn't buying the Tony Yayo album too. Like c'mon, seriously. Evenn if I had paper like that to buy CD's, that's an album that was NEVER gonna make it into my house based on money spent out of my pocket!).

It's not that I wasn't hearing albums though. After all, because this stupid site actually has some sort of readership and marginal check-for factor, I've actually started to get serviced with lot of promos from some good folks whose job it is to try and get people like me to talk about their music. I also have a few friends and acquaintances who either manage groups or work at labels and distribution companies who've thrown me whatever joints they've been shilling over the past year but, despite all of that, there were still plenty of notable album releases I straight up hadn't heard all the way through.

But with the arrival of the ipod, my album listening game suddenly got very focused once again. Without spending a dime, I've now got over 180 FULL albums that were borrowed and jacked from friends and colleagues rockin' in some kind of rotation on my player. And because of that I've still been discovering new albums from 2005 up until literally this week that would have flown under my radar and been completely missed by me.

My ipod's probably been bad for the music industry but it's been GREAT for my music listening experience and for my apartment which is almost bursting at the seams from being filled with way too many records (2500+ is my best guess though the exact number is anyone's guess) and CD's (1700 give or take but again, I really wouldn't know for sure the exact number).

Anyway, as ridiculously long as this post is, I could have written some REAL essays if I had the time or energy but that would have only further delayed when this post would have actually appeared and I'm really trying to enjoy my Memorial Day weekend without this hanging over my head still - LOL. It's clearly futile trying to be as creative (and extensive) as some folks like my man Joey so I tried to take inspiration from Tego who knocked out a solid ass but efficiently tight year end list without all the flim-flam and wannabe critical showboating but I still failed miserably. So without further ado....

The albums I really liked this year:

Image Hosted by Image Hosted by
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Forget the hype and all the corny hipster wanna-be's you laugh at or would be embarassed to be seen at a show with who also liked this album. Silent Alarm is one for the ages with barely a medicore track to be found on it. This is a record whose influences are pretty obvious but which still manages to be its own record and, for my money, stands up as being a classic in its own right. Plus it still sounds fantastic when I play it now while even the obvious cash-in remix album that came out at the end of last year was pretty f-cking good too!

Image Hosted by

T.I. - Urban Legend
This was an album which, like Trap Muzik, I got into late and was proof that the internet music listening experience isn't all it's cracked up to be. After getting open on Trap Muzik and being blown away by Urban Legend's first single "Bring Em Out" I was pretty psyched to hear this record. So I checked it out on one of those online media players but was kind of non-plussed by what I heard and ready to bin it as one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

But then I coppped a proper copy on my ipod and was subsequently surprised by how incredible this album actually was. Internet nerds, learn a lesson from me. King of the South? No doubt. I've said it before - he's the Jay-Z of that ish.

Image Hosted by
Bun B - Trill
Another record I would have never heard had it not been for my ipod. I heard all the blog/online rap nerd fanboy hype but truth be told I don't really hold much weight in that ish anyway even though I was fan of UGK from even before Volume 10 was sampling their "Pocketful of Stones" for "Pistol Grip Pump." (Yeah that's how I deep I get, I don't need a cheat sheet).

Fcck me though if this record wasn't in fact as good, if not, better, than all the hype. Dude's so solid MC-wise I'm not even sick of hearing him even though it seemed like he was on every album (and remix) that came out last year. Listen to "Draped Up (H-Town Remix)" feat. Lil Keke, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Mike Jones & Slim Thug and "Get Throwed" feat. Pimp C, Young Jeezy & Jay-Z and tell me that, without any Dirty South disclaimers or handicapping, that isn't some of the best hip hop you've heard, period.

Image Hosted by

The Game - The Documentary
I know: The Game looks and sounds like a rapper Jimmy Iovine, 50 cent and Dr. Dre made with a chemistry set (or something), he name drops too much, he's got a dubious background as a possibly fake gang banger, male stripper, former dating show contestant and is someone who seems a little -- how can I put this? -- confused as far as where his crew loyalties lie, who he's beefin' with and why.

All that aside though, The Documentary, with amazing tracks like "Hate it or Love it," Higher," "Runnin'," "Put You up on Game" etc. etc., was evidence that major label corporate hip hop can still sound incredibly fresh and cohesive even when you go to the exact same cast of characters that every other superstar, millionaire rapper uses to make their album. And the fact that he's managing to hold his own against 50 and entire G-Unit crew when they threw him out on his ass and have been doggin' him out on mixtapes ever since and that Dre looks like he's still riding out for him by doing beats for his forthcoming Doctor's Advocate album are plus points in his favor too.

Image Hosted by

Keyshia Cole - The Way It Is
Another late-running-discovered-via-the-ipod contender. For my money The Way It Is is a better record than Mary's and I gotta respect how she grinded it throughout last year winning fans one by one by droppping a series of steadily better singles. How often does that happen nowadays?

Her breakthrough hit "I Should Have Cheated" was just one example of the amazing soul music this album contained. She may be young but she really made you believes she lived that sh-t she's singing about. I'm not hating but the four and a half million of you who bought Mariah's not-bad comeback album but not this need to be ashamed of yourslves. R&B album of the year by a mile.

Various Artists - Big Boi Presents Got Purp Vol. II
Funnily enough, not that I thought it was bad but I wasn't that big a fan of the epic and still-going "Kryptonite" single (I don't even think I charted it on my year end single wrap-up list), but this album which it came from was redonkolous.

Admittedly I am a bit of Dungeon Family/Organized Noize/Oukast fan although not to the point where I own any of the albums from the second stringers in their crew(s) (hello, Backbone, Witchdoctor, Killah Mike et al.). But my predisposition and biases aside, this is just a great album when signs suggesting that likelihood were slim. Superstar rapper starts yet another label while making an over-budget, way-past-deadline film at the same time, throws his homeboys -- many of whom are rejects from previous failed record deals and labels -- on said label's preview compilation along with some random-ass R&B and it actually all sounds good? I should have put money down on that happening and could now have been chilling in the Cayman Island retired and living off my winnings.

Image Hosted by

Kanye West - Late Registration
Probably album of the year for many folks and frankly I wouldn't argue the fact if pushed. This dude can be a jacksass personality-wise but that's been documented extensively everywhere else. Truth is, he's a semi-genius - not that he needs to hear further affirmation of it from me based on his ego though.

Now I'm not sure he's made an album that blows my wig off like when I first heard Low End Theory or It Takes A Nation of Millions.... but Late Registration is a better album than many were expecting and is arguably a more solid record than College Dropout. And working with Jon Brion (Fiona Apple's producer - I mean WTF is that about?) and coming up with a production sound that's neither straight-up pop nor hip hop but which trascends both genres and his acclaimed first album in many ways is genius-like behaviour in my books. Yeah, he's still a pretty average MC but dude says lot of, not only heartfelt, but also courageous and challenging things and not just in his rhymes. Duke is the real deal and he keeps hip hop interesting which is why you'll continue to see his name in the pages of this site throughout this year

Image Hosted by

Raheem DeVaughn - The Love Experience
Completely slept on. 150,000 satisfied fans, most of whom -- with no radio hits or real videos to speak of from this album -- heard about this dude via his amazing live shows or by word of mouth, can't be wrong, can they? The coffee house and headwrap crew f-ck with this dude because of his lush Isleys-by-way-of-Prince "neo-soul" sound but he still keeps it hood enough to appeal to the more opened-minded Jadakiss and G-Unit fans out there. Just do yourself a favor and check his sh-t out. There's some links at the bottom of this post for you to start off with.

Image Hosted by

Various Artists - Blue Note Trip: Jazzanova
I shouldn't really include reissue or catalog albums on this list but this album was an amzingly well put-together collection of semi-obscure rare groove and breakbeat jazz. Essential for those of you adult enough to handle it. All my late twentysomething & thirysomething cocktail party-throwing people: Stand Up!

Image Hosted by

Common - Be
I was sh-tting on this album hard when it came out mostly in reaction to the ridiculous over-the-top hype and classic status accolades being thrown at it by Common groupies online and magazines like XXL. To me, trying to compare this album to undeniable classics like Low End Theory, De La Soul is Dead etc. was absurd but now that a few months have passed and the hype's died down, I can listen to it a bit more objectively and I have to admit it's a nice little record.

With production handled solely by Kanye and Jay Dee (R.I.P.), Be's warm and organic-feeling souled-out, jazzy sound was incredibly cohesive. There weren't really any stand out, anthemic singles ("The Corner" was just aight to me) but that wasn't the point really, was it? Be is a record you need to listen to as whole. Ipod tip: find a copy of the studio verison of "The Food"and replace the half-assed live Chappelle version in the sequence for best listening experience (you can move the live version to the end as a bonus track if you still need it).

Image Hosted by

Beanie Sigel - The B.Coming
This was an early contender for album of the year for me but as good a record as it was, it hasn't quite held up throughout the year as well as I expected. I don't know if it's because the hip hop landscape changed so radically in 2005 that by the end of the year, as the Dirty South and Trap Hop sound took over, the album already sounded dated and almost a litle antiquated or what? This album was still completely overlooked even by jackasses complaining about the "death" of East coast hip hop and is probably one of the last examples you'll find of this sound getting even minor attention as a major label proposition for a while. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum....

Image Hosted by

Young Jeezy - Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101
Regular readers know I kind of jumped on the Jeezy bandwagon semi-belatedly. When I first heard his album I had pretty much dismissed it out of hand as not my thing. Almost a year later I still listen to it on and off and now concede, "This might be a modern era classic." Am I right? I don't know but I'll give Jeezy his due. He's got the voice, which I always knew, and the songs and this was a helluva album for what it was which is the perfect distillation of what hip hop has become in 2005. Forty year old cynics who were raised on albums like Paid in Full, Criminal Minded, The Chronic and Illmatic that did the same in their own time will no doubt vehemently disgraee. Which bring me to....

Image Hosted by

Ying Yang Twins - U.S.A. - United States of Atlanta
I am going to say this very slowly and very clearly: straight up and down, U.S.A. is an INCREDIBLE album. Be clear, I am NOT joking.

Trust me, I never thought I'd be writing these words but f-ck all the clever posing and babble from the rap blogtelligentsia dismissng these dudes as coons and misogynists. Listen to the f-cking album before you fully judge these guys. Besides seemingly effortlessly creating certified club bangers like "Wait" and "Badd", these dudes made some tracks that I would argue are more conscious than all the best efforts by the Mr. Lif's, Talib Kweli's, Dead Prez's and others that backpackers and okaplayers hold so dear. I mean would Anthony Hamilton get on a track with these dudes if they were as bad as their detractors claim? And by the way, they had the singer from Maroon 5 feaured on their album before Kanye did!

Image Hosted by Image Hosted by

Beck - Guerro / Gorillaz - Demon Days
It's been a minute since Beck was the must-check, "It" artist in pop music. Which is too bad 'cos a lot of folks missed out on hearing this good-ass album that he dropped last year. I haven't played it in a while so I don't have that much more to add but let me just say, this old dog still had a few tricks up his sleeve even if they've all been pulled out before - it's just good to see them one more time.

On the flipside, Damon Albarn's high concept cartoon band the Gorillaz represented, with an able assist from Danger Mouse and various guest artists like De La Soul, the 2005 version of hip hop as interpreted through the lens of white alternative hipsters that Beck did in his prime. Amazingly, this album was as good if not better than their debut. (Note to Dave and Pos: glad to see you jumped on board this time after passing on them beats I passed you from Dan the last time around!)

Nikka Costa - Can'tneverdidnothin'
Maybe not quite as crazy as her last album but I've said it before: don't fall for the hype. Joss Stone is not the truth, Nikka Costa is funkiest, most soulful white girl in pop music today. I'm glad someone is giving us the modern day take on Janis Joplin 'cos music needs that even if it doesn't realize it yet. Now if we could get a 2006 take on Earth Wind & Fire, I'd really be open....

Faith Evans - The First Lady
When I thought back to when I was DJ-ing more regularly back in 2004-2005 and playing four or five of her 12 inches over the course of a night that would all keep the crowd moving, I realized how much of a fan of Faith Evans I really was.

If Mary is the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Faith is the Queen of a lesser-acknowledged but just as beloved (at least to me) subgenre: the Hip Hop Rollerskating Jam. Last year's The First Lady dabbled in some of that same territory but also trawled an interesting middle ground of funky, hip-hop-inspired faux vintage R&B somwhere between Mary circa My Life and Share My World and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. As well as this album did, it seemed to disappear quickly after a strong start but it was still one of the more listenable R&B albums this year.

Honorable mentions for stuff I was also diggin' that didn't quite reach my Fave list above:

Slim Thug - Almost Platinum / Koushik - Be With / Tom Vek - We Have Sound / El-p - Collecting the Kid / Black Rob - The Black Rob Report / Lil Wayne - The Carter II / Trick Daddy - Thug Matrimony/ Mike Jones - Who is Mike Jones? / Brazilian Girls - Brazilian Girls / Ge-Ology - Ge-Ology Plays Ge-Ology

Image Hosted by

Stuff that was a disappointment to me in one way or another:

Little Brother - The Minstrel Show: I like these guys in theory and they're great live but face facts - this album was garbage. I've said this many times to folks when their name has come up in the past: if these guys were around during the "Golden Era" of earky 90's hip hop, nobody would be talking about them because they would have been a B or maybe even C division group.

The Minstrel Show is not even the best album they droppped in 2005 - that honor would go to The Chitlin Circuit 1.5 mixtape and, I hinted at this before but after playing both albums again on a bus ride up to Boston this weekend I'll outright say it now, fellow Justus Leaguer Cesar Comanche's Squirrel and the Aces album is a better record too.


Juelz Santana - What The Game's Been Missing: actually a decent record but fell short of the modern street classic I was anticipating. / AZ - A.W.O.L.: still a lyrical talent but over these under-produced, low budget sounding beats, what's the point? / Paul Wall - The People's Champ: one of the best singles of the year came from this underwhelming album. / M.I.A. - Arular: see my comments on Juelz Santana and Paul Wall / Dwele - Some Kinda: a great lead-off single and last album but this album went in the wrong direction. He needed better songs and hooks not more aural wallaper for dinner parties posing as soul music.

That these might be worth peeping but I never got to check 'em out:

Dave Ghetto - Love Life / Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask / Platinum Pied Pipers - Triple P / Ghostface & Trife - Put it on the Line / Sean Price - Monkey Barz / 9th Wonder & Buckshot - Chemistry / Broadcast - Tender Buttons / The Juan Maclean - Less Than Human / LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem / We Are Scentists - I'm not sure this actually came out last year but I heard some of it playing in a used CD store in Cambridge, MA and it was pretty fccking hot sounding. I've gotta get my rock game together again!

My picks to click for this year if I had any say in it:

Peedi Peedi: still! He was saved by Ne-Yo last year but I see the window of opportunity closing on this kid real soon if he doesn't start putting out some real records. / Jae Millz / Grafh / Jody Breeze: I didn't listen to many mixtapes last year but Stackin Papuh was one of the best of the ones I did peep. / Rhymefest: don't get hornswoggled by the hype! He's still better than Lupe.

And not forgetting OG artists like: The Clipse / Joe Budden / Dead Prez / Ghostface (and Raekwon?) / T.I. / UGK / Outkast & Kelis who are all set to drop this year too. Should I even dream of the possibility of getting Detox or is that just wasted energy?

Let me not leave everyone else out - what are others picking or what looks like it might pop this year that I overlooked? Feel free to comment below - you know the drill....


- 2005 YEAR END WRAP-UP: Singles here.

- 2004 YEAR END WRAP-UP: Albums here.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button